Relax, Have Bitachon
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg

We are obligated to believe that there was hidden good in every event that ever happened. * Concerning the future, we must have absolute bitachon that we will experience only revealed good. * How bitachon itself brings salvation and redemption.


The Baal Shem Tov was once directed from Above to travel to a certain village with his disciples to learn about bitachon from the local revenue collector. When they arrived in town, the collector was happy to see them and insisted that they be his guests.


The next morning, as the Baal Shem Tov and his talmidim were preparing to daven, a policeman walked into the house and did something strange. Without uttering a word he walked over to the table and banged on it three times with a heavy stick. He then left the premises.


The guests, who had no idea what was going on, looked anxiously at their host. But as the revenue collector seemed unconcerned, they too put it out of their minds.


A few hours later, after everyone had finished davening, the same bizarre scene played out a second time. The policeman walked through the door, banged on the table three times with his stick, and left. Again the revenue collector didn’t bat an eyelash, but this time the guests could not contain their curiosity.


“It’s a warning,” the tax collector explained. “I have to pay the paritz a large sum of money by this evening. The custom in this village is that on the day the money is due, a policeman comes and bangs on the table three times as a reminder. According to law, the paritz will imprison me and my family if I don’t repay the debt by then.”


“Well, you don’t look too worried,” they replied. “It must mean that you have the money already saved up. But why are you waiting till the last minute to deliver it? Why don’t you go pay the paritz now, so at least it won’t be hanging over your head?”


“To tell you the truth,” the man confided, “I don’t have a cent. But surely Hashem will send me the money by then. Come, let’s sit down and eat. There are still another three hours till the deadline.”


Everyone enjoyed a leisurely meal, including the tax collector, who sat and conversed with his guests as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Completely relaxed, one would never have known that he was only hours away from being thrown into jail.


At the end of the meal the policeman arrived for the third and final time. Again it failed to elicit even the tiniest response.


It was only after an unhurried Birkas HaMazon that the collector stood up and put on his Shabbos coat and gartel. “I’m off to pay the paritz,” he announced.


“You do have the money?!” the guests asked in surprise. “Well, no, not yet. But I have no doubt that Hashem will provide me with all my needs.”


The Baal Shem Tov and his disciples went out onto the porch and watched him walk down the road. A few minutes later they saw a wagon come to a halt and its occupant call out to the tax collector. The two men had a short conversation, after which the wagon resumed traveling. A second later it stopped again. This time the driver handed a bundle of money to the tax collector, who continued walking.


As the wagon passed by, the disciples intercepted the driver and asked him what happened. Why had he stopped to speak to the tax collector, and why had he given him money the second time?


The driver explained that he had approached the collector with a business proposition. “I told him I was interested in buying whiskey from him,” he said, “and named a certain price for the entire batch he would produce this coming winter. Then we started haggling, because he insisted on more money than I was willing to pay. When he told me he didn’t have time to discuss it as he was in hurry to pay the rent to the paritz, I told him to forget it and continued traveling. But a minute later I thought it over and regretted my decision. Everyone knows that the revenue collector is an honest and reliable man. Why should I haggle with the man? It just wasn’t worth it. I decided to call him back and seal the agreement before someone else got to him first. And because I happened to have the money on me, I paid him everything in advance.”


(The tax collector, of course, used the money to pay the paritz…)


Upon hearing this, the Baal Shem Tov pronounced to his disciples: “See how great is the power of bitachon…”


* * *


Over the past few weeks this column has dealt with the subject of emuna - literal, unshakable faith in Hashem - and how it is rooted in the soul of every Jewish person. Every Jew believes in his heart of hearts that “no evil descends from On High.” Sometimes, however, the highest level of good is imperceptible to our physical eyes, simply because it is too sublime. When a person uncovers the true good that is hidden in something that appears its opposite, he causes the concealed good to be revealed openly.


This principle holds true on both the personal and communal level, encompassing everything that happens to the individual and the entire Jewish people. Whenever something happens that doesn’t appear to be good externally, we must always remember that on the innermost level, it is. Training ourselves to look for the inner reality and thinking accordingly has the effect of bringing out the good concealed within.


Chassidus demands that we go one step further. Not only are we supposed to believe that everything comes from Hashem and (as “no evil descends from On High”) everything contains hidden good that will later become apparent, but we are obligated to trust that all will be good on the revealed level - and not just at some future time when G-d will decide to reveal the truth, but now and for always.


A Jew must believe that everything that already happened is good on the innermost level, even those events that seem to be the opposite. And as for the future, a Jew must have total bitachon and confidence that everything will be good in the literal sense, rather than just containing hidden good.


Shortly before the start of the Persian Gulf War in 5751, the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach stated (Volume 36 of Likkutei Sichos, page 3; free translation):


“The definition of bitachon is not only to believe in G-d’s ability to bring benefit or save one from trouble and the like, but to trust that He will actually do so. One must be so confident of this that he is completely relaxed, unworried, and unconcerned, as elucidated in Chovos HaLevavos: ‘The essence of bitachon is tranquility of mind. The person with bitachon trusts that the One he relies on will do the good and right thing.’”


In other words, a Jew must believe that not only does everything emanate from G-d and is, therefore, ultimately good, but that G-d will show him open and apparent goodness on the revealed level. Furthermore, the person doesn’t even have to deserve only revealed good, as G-d demonstrates goodness even to those who are unworthy.


Another excerpt from Chovos HaLevavos (quoted in the same sicha):


“One must also trust that Hashem is the epitome of generosity and loving-kindness to the deserving and undeserving alike; His generosity and loving-kindness are ongoing, without end.”


From the Rambam’s Principles: “It states, ‘Loving-kindness shall surround whomever trusts in the L-rd.’ In other words, even if a person isn’t worthy in his own right, bitachon means that He will continue to demonstrate unwarranted loving-kindness to those who trust in Him.”


From the Kad HaKemach: “Whoever trusts in Hashem will be lifted above trouble as reward for his bitachon, even if he was deserving of the difficulty.”


How many times has the Rebbe repeated the famous saying of the Tzemach Tzedek, “Tracht gut, vet zain gut - Think good, it will be good”? These words, the Rebbe stressed, were uttered as practical advice (halacha l’maaseh) to a Chassid who had come to the Tzemach Tzedek about a health problem. By thinking positively, the Tzemach Tzedek told him, the outcome would be positive.


The Baal Shem Tov says something even more astounding (Keser Shem Tov, siman 382) - that bitachon protects a person even from punishment he truly deserves! As long as a person has genuine bitachon in Hashem and trusts in Him completely, nothing untoward can happen to him, even if he deserves it on account of his sins. When Hashem wants to bring punishment on someone, He takes away the person’s bitachon. “For this reason, it is appropriate to pray that G-d strengthen one’s bitachon.”


But how can a person be one hundred percent sure that Hashem will show him only revealed good? What happens if he is really supposed to be punished (because of undesirable deeds, etc.)?


The Rebbe answers:


“The obligation to have bitachon is not just a particular detail (and logical consequence) of the belief that everything is controlled by Hashem, and that G-d is merciful and generous. If that were so, there would be no need for a separate positive command. Rather, this obligation is a service in its own right, the essence and definition of which is that a person must rely on the Holy One, Blessed Be He, to the point that he places his entire fate in His hands. As it states, ‘Cast your burden upon the L-rd,’ meaning that he has no other support in the world besides Him. This is also the intention of the statement in Chovos HaLevavos, in which bitachon is likened to ‘a servant who is imprisoned in his master’s pit,’ i.e., that the prisoner’s trust is focused solely on the master, ‘who is the only one who can cause him harm or bring him benefit.’


“(It is also understood that this trust in Hashem should have nothing to do with one’s particular circumstances. Even in a situation where, according to the natural order, salvation is impossible, one must nonetheless rely on Hashem, Who is not limited by the laws of nature, etc.)


“This is the foundation of bitachon in Hashem - that He will demonstrate only revealed and apparent good, even if the individual is undeserving of this kindness.


Bitachon does not mean that a person should believe that because G-d’s loving-kindness is infinite and limitless, regardless of whether or not one is deserving, he will automatically be shown G-d’s beneficence without any effort on his part. (Indeed, this would negate the entire concept of reward and punishment.) Rather, bitachon necessitates real avoda by the soul, which brings down G-d’s loving-kindness as a result of the person’s efforts to trust in Him: When a person relies only on Him, truly and from the depths of his soul, to the point that he is completely without worry, this in itself causes a reciprocal arousal from Above that G-d will deal with him in a similar manner, showing him only goodness (even if he is not legitimately worthy of such treatment).


“Indeed, this is the meaning of the commandment to ‘trust in Him,’ i.e., that a person must cast his burden upon the Holy One, Blessed Be He, that He will only show him revealed and overt good. When a person relies solely on Hashem (without making any calculations as to whether or not it is possible to be saved, etc.), the response from Above will be measure for measure, and Hashem will guard him and show him mercy even if, according to strict reckoning, he does not necessarily deserve revealed good.


“This is also the meaning of the words of the Tzemach Tzedek, that it is bitachon itself that yields positive results, rather than positive results being merely a side benefit of bitachon. Indeed, this is the definition of the commandment to have bitachon… The bitachon itself causes and brings about G-d’s salvation.”


The Rebbe continues in footnote 42, commenting on the statement in the Zohar (Tetzaveh 184): “The higher world only influences the lower world according to the lower world’s demeanor. If the lower world demonstrates benevolence, so is it demonstrated from Above, etc.”


“From this we may derive a practical directive:


“Whenever a person encounters difficulties and obstacles preventing him from keeping Torah and mitzvos, he should know that the ability to overcome them is dependent on him and his own actions, i.e., having complete trust that Hashem will help him and everything will be good, so much so that he is totally without worry.


“[It is understood that at the same time, every effort must be made within the natural order to remove these obstacles and difficulties. (As is known, there is no contradiction between having true bitachon in Hashem and working within the natural order…only great tzaddikim have no need to do this; however, this is not the place to elaborate.)]


“For indeed, we have been promised - ‘Tracht gut, vet zain gut’ - in the actual, literal sense, that all the obstructions and impediments will be nullified, and that we will experience only revealed and overt good, visible to the fleshly eye, on the lowest and most concrete level.”


* * *


If this true on the individual level, how much more so does it apply to the current situation in Eretz Yisrael!


As frum Jews, we are obligated to believe that everything that ever occurred in the past was good (even if we do not understand it, and reality itself seems to be crying out “ad masai?!”). For the future, we must continue to encourage and strengthen the bitachon of Klal Yisroel that all will be good on the revealed level (while simultaneously working within the confines of the natural order). This includes relentlessly and publicly protesting Israel’s policy of restraint, which is nothing but the wholesale abandonment of the security of millions of Jews, G-d forbid. In the merit of our bitachon alone we will bring the Geula!


Our bitachon must apply to the entire experience of the Galus, and imminently, to the Geula. We must be one hundred percent sure, without any doubts whatsoever, that “Moshiach is on his way.” For even if the Galus would continue, G-d forbid, our absolute level of bitachon would have the power to nullify and transform the future into revealed good.      


The main point is that the Rebbe promised that the Final Redemption is imminent, and he is the only who can make such a promise (see Dvar Malchus Parshas Balak):


“It is certain, without any doubt or even the hint of doubt, that the time for the Redemption has already arrived…to the point of announcing ‘Behold, he [Melech HaMoshiach] is coming,’ for he is already coming. That is, we are already standing on the threshold of the start of the Geula, to be followed immediately by its continuation and completion.”


The Rebbe then appeals to us to learn inyanei Moshiach and Geula:


“This is not (only) intended as a segula to hasten the coming of Moshiach and the Redemption, but (also and) primarily so that we can begin living with inyanei Moshiach and Geula now. We should ‘live with the times’ of the Days of Moshiach by imbuing the mind with an understanding of these matters that will extend to the emotions of the heart until it affects the practical aspects - speech, thought, and deed - in an appropriate manner at this special time (the threshold of the Redemption) when we can point with a finger and say, ‘Behold, he (Melech HaMoshiach) is coming’…The first thing, however, is intellectual contemplation - to recognize that we are standing at the entrance to the Days of Moshiach (‘Behold, he is coming’) - including in a manner of ‘inattention’ (hesech) that transcends the intellect.”


This is especially significant in light of the Rebbe’s emphasis (in the famous sicha of Parshas Shoftim 5751) that his main prophecy about Moshiach’s imminent arrival was “not being uttered as (only) a scholar or judge, but as a prophet, meaning that it must then occur.” Had the Rebbe’s prediction been said only by a scholar or judge, it is possible that the prophecy could be fulfilled solely on the spiritual level, like the various end dates that were foretold in previous generations but never made it down to the physical world (as explained in a maamer of the Alter Rebbe). The Rebbe promised us, however, that his words will be fulfilled in the literal sense, on the lowest physical plane of existence.


We must continue to have absolute faith in the Rebbe’s prophecy. For, as explained above, bitachon is the vessel for containing the Rebbe’s revelation in the true and complete Redemption.


The Rebbe concludes the above sicha:


“In the same way that it is written concerning the redemption from Egypt, ‘In the merit of their bitachon was Israel redeemed,’ so too, as stated in the Midrash, will the Redemption from this final exile occur: ‘They are worthy of redemption as reward for the hope (itself).’ So shall it be for us: In the merit of the Jewish people’s bitachon in ‘My salvation is close in coming’ we will merit that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, will redeem us in the true and complete Redemption, speedily in our days mamash.”


Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach l’olam va’ed!


Completely relaxed, one would never have known that he was only hours away from being thrown into jail...




The person doesn’t even have to deserve only revealed good, as G-d demonstrates goodness even to those who are unworthy.




Bitachon necessitates real avoda by the soul, which brings down


G-d’s loving-kindness as a result of the person’s efforts to trust in Him.




“It is certain, without any doubt or even the hint of doubt, that the time for the Redemption has already arrived.” 


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